TORONTO — A one-day strike that will close high schools at ten boards across Ontario on Wednesday is a “virtual certainty”, said the teachers’ union, with no further contract talks scheduled with the government until the new year.
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation President Harvey Bischof said Tuesday a government-appointed mediator has ended talks after determining both sides were too far apart to continue.
The government and union had been scheduled to bargain Monday and Tuesday, but continuing negotiations would be more frustrating than productive, Bischof said.
“Having both sides take some time to consider their positions and return to the table is a reasonable recommendation from the mediator,” he said.
With no progress on the horizon, Bischof said Wednesday’s planned one-day strike in select school boards is a “virtual certainty” to go ahead.
The planned one-day strike is the third job action by the union in a bid to ramp up pressure on the government. It will impact boards in nearly every region of the province and follows a province-wide job action earlier this month that shuttered every public high school and some elementary schools.
The teachers have been without a contract since their last deal with the government expired at the end of August, along with contracts with all public education staff in the province. The government has inked deals with two unions representing education workers, but remains at odds with a number of other major teachers’ unions.
The teachers are conducting a work-to-rule campaign and say they are pushing back against government plans to increase class sizes and the introduction of mandatory online courses.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce called on the union to cancel the strike and put forward new proposals at the bargaining table.
“I am frustrated and disappointed by OSSTF’s actions at the negotiating table,” he said in a statement. “They came forward … with no new proposals, no changes to their position, and no ideas on how to advance negotiations.”
Lecce said the main issue in the talks is compensation, with the government recently passing legislation to cap annual wage increases for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The union is asking for inflationary increases, which would amount to about two per cent.
“We have made a reasonable offer on compensation for the second highest paid educators in the country, as well as other enhancements to our initial offer to OSSTF,” he said.
The boards affected by the latest job action by OSSTF:
— Lakehead District School Board
— Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
— Lambton Kent District School Board
— Thames Valley District School Board
— Waterloo Region District School Board
— Waterloo Catholic District School Board
— York Region District School Board
— York Catholic District School Board
— Halton District School Board
— Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 17, 2019.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
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